Sightseers cruising along West Picture Rocks Road in Saguaro National Park West might notice the freshly painted median lines, new caution signs and rumble strips that vibrate your car if you veer into the oncoming lane.
They’ll also see white stakes lining the road in certain areas, along with corresponding “no parking” signs where people used to pull over, get out of their cars and admire the towering cactuses and surrounding mountains.
While some nature lovers might not appreciate the restricted access, the changes were enacted to increase safety and reduce the likelihood of crashes in the area.
The national park partnered with the Federal Highway Administration to implement the changes as part of a safety improvement project.
The work began in November, when crews started trimming brush and salvaging sensitive plants that were too close to the road, said park spokeswoman Andy Fisher.
Road crews returned in February to add rumble strips – raised pavement markers and reflectors to make the road more visible at night – re-stripe the road and install signs.
Crews also made similar improvements to short sections of North Sandario and North Kinney roads.
While most people may agree with the clearer lines, increased signage and other improvements, there has been some adverse reaction to the park’s decision to block access to the pullout areas. The Star published a letter to the editor last month where a reader lamented the restricted access, saying Picture Rocks Road had been “improved to death.”
But there are a few reasons park officials decided to close off the areas.
There were visibility issues along the road that restricted a driver’s ability to see oncoming traffic if they were leaving the pull-out.
“The sight lines are dangerous, ...there are a lot of curves on that road,” Fisher said.
There are similar issues for cars that drive along the road and may have trouble seeing another vehicle leaving the pullout.
In addition, it was hard for motorists to know when they were about to arrive at one of the pullouts, due to the sharp curves and lack of signage.
However, one reason stands above all others.
The areas were never designated by the national park as pullouts in the first place.
“Those areas that were closed, our intention is to keep them closed,” she said.
There are still a few designated areas for sightseers to take strolls, snap photos or enjoy the scenery, but those pullouts might not offer the same views as the old ones.
But, considering the narrow road, sharp curves and aforementioned safety issues with the old pullouts, the restrictions might be worth it.
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Betty Hillman has a question regarding the electronic device on North First Avenue between East River and Orange Grove roads that shows the speed your car is traveling. Hillman wanted to know if the sign is a precursor to a new traffic light or an attempt to slow down vehicles.
“The speed device (feed-back sign) on First Ave, or in other locations for that matter, is to indicate to the drivers their speed relative to the roadway speed. ... Placing such devices does not indicate putting a traffic signal,” said Pima County Transportation Director Priscilla Cornelio.